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Psychological Marketing Analysis of Actual
Direct-Mail Sales Pieces

The following direct mail pieces are reprinted below, but with changes to disguise the client company and its location. After each piece you will find our analysis and recommendations. Remember, the analysis of marketing pieces with few or no problems is FREE!


PIECE #1: Note: The entire fee for this analysis was REFUNDED as there were few problems. The client reported the piece is generating a good response and wanted to know why.

"Direct Mail Advertising that gets results is not an accident!

Our customized direct mail promotions bring more of the mailed prospects into your store. An investment with us provides a return, not an expense. With a direct personal invitation, you can speak to a targeted prospect, rather than spending money talking to the general public. Our prospect lists and time proven offers are engineered to fit your dealership, area, and products.

Simply return the attached request by fax and we will send a sample package and proposal for your review. Take a look before you even speak with us.

Fax or call for details and full color samples."

(Marketer's name/address/phone/fax)

Psychological Marketing Analysis: There are numerous factors in the design of this piece which contribute to its effectiveness. They may be broken down into Content and Design factors.


  • There are five sentences, 71 words, that comprise the heart of the message. It requires roughly 20 seconds to read, which research suggests is near the outside limit of the time which the average person is initially willing to devote to a message of unknown value. In those 71 words are 7 promises, each focused on a different primary motivation of the reader (an auto dealer). Thus, in 20 seconds the reader receives seven different promises that you can give him what he wants.

  • The name of the company, and its slogan (" ****** ") at the top of the page, suggest that you specialize in auto advertising, and can thus be expected to be more proficient than some general-purpose ad agency. This promises to satisfy a key "need" motivation to hire a firm which knows what they're doing.

  • The headline emphasizes "results." This is a tangible measurement -- people coming in the door -- which can easily be compared to the results achieved by prior ads and promotions. This appeals to the hard-nosed, dollars-and-cents attitude which car dealers must have to be successful. It promises to satisfy a strong "want" motivation.

  • The headline also raises a "fear" motivation -- that the sporadic good results of past ads and promotions were an "accident." In other words, he got good results, but he doesn't really know WHY he got people to come out. It raises memories of past ads that the dealer thought were "sure-fire," but didn't work. And it stimulates a strong motivation to reduce that fear of future ads by using an expert's approach which he can have confidence in.

  • Each of the other sentences hit a separate "hot button" motivation of the reader -- * bring in more people, * provide a return, * target the pitch, * don't waste money, * lists engineered to fit needs. Like bricks, each separate promise helps build a wall of promises that, seen as a whole, suggests two things to the buyer: (1) "These guys know what I really need." And (2) "They just might know how to make it happen."
    And that is all that's required for them to take the next step -- that belief. It doesn't require the "hard sell." You are smart enough to realize that this piece isn't selling them your promotional services, it is selling them on the idea of sending back your fax. That's the only sales goal of this piece.

  • The "next step" is simple and convenient. They don't have to do anything. The fewer demands on the dealer's time required to take the next step is critical for the broadest success of the piece. Even the dealer's name and address is already printed on the return fax sheet. The last sentences also make an important promise. It says, in effect, "no salesman will call." The dealer won't be bothered, receiving only the printed information he wants. In short, it is a "no-lose" proposition for him to take the next step.


The piece is very short, and looks it. That's good. It does not appear to be overwhelming, encouraging dealers to at least take a look.

The typeface is informal, as is the cartoon at the top left of the page. While in some types of business, this informality would not send a strong a message about the image of your company, with this target market it appears to strike the right note.

The large amount of space between lines and the white space throughout the ad suggest to the reader that "this will be quick and easy to process, so I'll take a look, rather than tossing it in the trash."

There are only two minor changes which immediately come to mind if this piece were to be redesigned.

(1) The first paragraph of promises ends with the weakest promise. It is the weakest because it focuses on the Process of getting people in the door (mailing lists), rather than how they will benefit the dealer once they are inside (results, return, sales, etc.) Research suggests that the second strongest argument should go at the end of a short list of persuasive reasons. The list could either be re-ordered, or the sentence could be restructured to emphasize the end result rather than the process.

(2) When customers physically do something that commits them to the next step in the buying process, it helps cement their abstract mental agreement to take that step. While telling their secretary to fax back the form is a physical action, it can be made stronger by asking them to check the box on the fax form, rather than having the checkmark already printed on it. This forces them to make a tiny behavioral choice in your favor. If they are going to send it back, they won't object to making the mark, and if they aren't, it doesn't matter if the checkmark is there or not.

Nice job!


PIECE #2: "FROGS LEGS" This piece is similar in its underlying style and "creative" thinking to many other problem marketing pieces we see at MPG. The client reported it is not pulling in business and wanted to know why.

 " What's a Good Price for Frogs' legs?

If you answered "How would I know? I'm not in the market to buy frogs' legs!" then you should consider ***** Marketing for your next dealer event promotion. Services constructed by a veteran General Manager coming from a High Volume Dealer.
Our invitations are sent to prospects who are currently or soon will be in the market
to upgrade their vehicle!
Our customized sales events provide

Over the top results at under the market prices.


Customized Invitational Event:
** ¢ per mailer (7,500 minimum)! Compare to other Promotions!
Includes Cash Prices for attendees up to $10,000

Registrar/Hostess * Success Training * First Class Postage

Your order TODAY will give you GREAT SALES for the upcoming month!

As you plan your calendar, please think on this: Our intention is your success. Give us a call and we'll quickly set up a meeting to discuss your needs.

Call for details and color samples!"

(marketer's name/address, but no phone or fax)

Psychological Marketing Analysis: This pieces uses a similar design structure as the "accident" piece -- lots of white space, informal font, hand drawn illustration, etc. That does not appear to be the problem with the piece. Instead the problem lies in its content and approach. Specifically. . .

  • The headline is very weak. It asks the reader to focus on a question he probably has no interest in. That's your first mistake. Headlines should grab attention and draw the reader into the text. While this headline is nicely off-beat, and does use a question format to create involvement, in the long run it doesn't work. There is no obvious relationship between frogs and car sales, so it initially seems like a waste of time to read further, which immediately reduces the number of dealers who get down to your pitch. As one of my students so aptly said, the first question in any buyer's mind is "Why should I care?" This first thought in the piece does not offer any good reasons for caring, or reading about the company's services.

  • The hand-drawn picture of a frog on a lily pad snatching a fly from the air looks a little cheesy. People look first at pictures. The role of the picture is to intrigue and entice them to read the headline, and to help create the mental launch pad for pitching your message. This picture doesn't help set up your pitch, because it is not even symbolically related to the message. In fact, the combination of the picture and headline probably make some readers think you're about to pitch them on a restaurant!

  • The first sentence should be tossed, too. There is no obvious relationship in this "if-then" sentence between the price of frogs legs (the "if") and using AAA (the "then.") In addition, the sentence covertly digs at the reader by telling him "I knew you wouldn't know the answer to this question." No one likes to be told they don't know something, even if it is the price of caviar in Stockholm. Subconsciously it diminishes our self-image.

  • The text of the pitch paragraph is primarily focused on the Process, not the desired Results, which is where the dealer's motivations are strongest. It talks about "your next promotion," "our invitations, "our sales events."

  • You also use one of your strong selling points as a "throw-away." Your experience in the dealer trenches gives you a strong appeal ("Guy's been there, so he knows the car business, knows the customers.") But it is just tossed in without explanation here, negating nearly all its impact.

  • The only sentence that really talks about the results the dealer wants to hear is not as easy to understand as it should be. "Over the top results at under the market prices." Notice that the two main concepts are each expressed in a triad of words, which should be linked, but aren't. The thoughts would be stronger and quicker to understand with dashes linking the words: "Over-the-Top results at under-the-market prices."

  • Having failed to inspire much interest, the offer to "get acquainted" is not very appealing. It is also the biggest copy on the page, drawing the eye directly to it. You want the reader's eye drawn to the words which will stimulate his strongest motivations and suggest they can be satisfied. You don't have any of them in here now, but you could use an image-rich thought like "We don't have enough salesmen to help all these people!!" either as a headline or somewhere in the body copy.

  • The phrase "Customized Invitational Event" doesn't have a very clear meaning. You want your offer to jump right out at the reader, which requires that it be clear. Let's talk about what you mean and how it can be fixed.

  • It is not a good idea to tax the reader's memory for numbers if you don't need to. However, if the dealer has recently done mailers and remembers what he paid for them, then he will have a basis to compare prices. But he won't know what results he will get with your mailing. So the entire weight of the success of the piece rests on its comparative price -- and then only for those dealers for whom price is far-and-away the most important factor in their decision.

  • If price comparisons are to be done, then it is more effective if some representative costs of the competing media are stated, rather than forcing the dealer to try to recall their costs. It will be even stronger if the price is not presented as part of the Process (one mailer for 89-cents), but in terms of Results -- "At **-cents each, our promotional mailers are 25% cheaper than what you've probably paid, On average they bring 38% more people to the showroom. That means you will get almost DOUBLE the traffic for every promotional dollar you spend with us!"

  • The sentence "includes cash prizes for attendees up to $10,000" is a little ambiguous on first reading -- it isn't clear if your company or the dealer with provide the $10,000. Is it extra, or is it built into the per-mailer price? That ambiguity makes it weak, when the idea demands a very strong sentence. A stronger version might have read: "WE will provide up to $10,000 in CASH MONEY prizes for some of your lucky customers."

  • The last three "pitches" (the hostess, training, postage) should be part of the initial paragraph, where you explain all the value you will provide. Placing the promises up front (written in terms of Results, not Process), and devoting a sentence or two to explain their value, will make the subsequent price offer even more attractive. ("I get all that for only **-cents?") It's like a mental scale -- you need to pile up all the value-added you have on one pan before you place the price on the other.

  • The sentence "Your order today will give you great sales for the upcoming month!" needs to be rewritten. The purpose of the piece is not to get an order, but to get a phone call. This directive in this sentence ("your order today") tries to push the reader much farther along in the buying process than he wants to be. Instead, it should focus on your key selling point here: "Your phone call today will produce bigger sales in 30 days."

  • The next to last sentence, "As you plan your calendar...", is weak and slightly confusing. The first phrase tells them "there's no hurry." And they have little incentive to act because none of their "hot button" motivations have been stimulated. The ‘call to action' is open-ended, not time sensitive or specific. The phrase "our intention is your success" is not immediately easy to understand, and would be better as "our goal is your success." By the way, you know that you should always include your address and phone number on every page of these mailers.

  • Finally, it asks the dealer to focus on his ‘needs' rather than on the end results -- bigger sales and more profit -- which generate more interest from the dealer. Here's a useful analogy: If you're selling perfume to a woman, your ad doesn't focus on her need for romance (sitting in a room alone by the telephone), but on the romance itself (dancing at a swank party with a handsome man), and then on how to achieve that desire (a picture of your perfume). That's why nearly all perfume ads show the buyer what she wants, then shows her how to get it. Ultimately, we're all selling perfume.

Would a Psychological Marketing Analysis like these be valuable in fine-tuning your marketing materials?

    >>> READY TO LEARN HOW YOU CAN SELL MORE? Simply attach or copy your marketing materials to an e-mail. We'll promptly let you know what our analysis will cost. YOU'LL BE PLEASANTLY SURPRISED. GUARANTEE: MATERIALS WITH FEW OR NO PROBLEMS WILL BE ANALYZED FOR FREE.

CLICK HERE and attach the marketing materials you want us to review. Be sure to describe your target audience for each piece.

If you don't have marketing materials, let us design them right the first time!

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